2016-04-06

模倣子 Turning subtle memes Inside Out

Did you notice during the family dinner in the film INSIDE OUT when the emotions inside the mom's and the dad's brains first came out and the man was shown up to be an idiot at all levels of consciousness, a few subtle messages:

1. the mom was the only one eating the Chinese take-out with chopsticks (the other two used forks)

2. the boxes of Chinese take-out had the metal loop handles?

3. I did not notice the logos on the take-out boxes, which might also have been telling...

Anyway, the sub-text is that the mom is somehow sophisticated and open-minded to other cultures or something as compared to the rest of her family. It's a feminist sub-text, i.e., women are somehow smarter and more sophisticated, which was the message of that whole scene.

The other message is that without the metal loops, even though they have been obsoleted in reality, would make the scene seem "underdone", like details had been left out, and the "incorrect" metal loops counter this sub-text, make it seem like there was a great attention to detail, even thought those details were in fact inaccurate (though in an excusable way, since they were chronologically, anachronistically, inaccurate, rather than, say, culturally or physically -- and leaving out the metal loops might have made it seem like the designers were somehow "out of touch" with Chinese-American culture by omitting this detail, even though it's now anachronistic in the given context). In other words, the take-out boxes WITH the metal loops are stronger as MIAOs than the more accurate loop-less boxes would be. Subtle irony there, but also closely linked, I think, to enduring cultural leitmotifs of sexism and racism. That is, replacing racist or sexist memetic imagery with "something else" gives the impression of cultural detachment. This is the problem. Contact memes (those memes that other, outside, groups attach to in-group members, members of a given group, if there is a lot of racism or sexism involved in the historical intergroup relationship, then removal of all of those memes, or ideological elements, attached to oppression (sexism or racism), it leaves a "memetic vacuum". This is as if the family in Inside Out were eating out of non-descript boxes (or even white tins labeled "FOOD" as in Repo Man -- could the point be similar...?), i.e., there is no memetic/ideological imagery, no MIAOs (Slavoj Zizek unfortunately does not make a clear distinction between MIAOs and memes, i.e., it's all kind of lumped in under the aegis of "ideology" in an inconsistent way).

One problem is that in that vacuum memetic systems tend to congeal around the always-present MIAOs, and often in an unpredictable and even more undesirable way, i.e., ruining the effects of liberation efforts up to that point (c.f., 3rd wave crypto-pseudo-feminism).

This can perhaps illuminate your Tigerlily example.

Slavoj Zizek does point out that the liberation of these minimal elements (which are MIAOs) is the path to liberation and the dismantling of oppressive systems (such as Nazism). But it may be true that one must deliberately avoid creating a memetic vacuum, or there is no guarantee of success, when there is an active system of oppression in place. Simply destroying does not guarantee liberation (as Zizek points out in the failure of the Communist Revolution -- they did not replace the old dreams with new dreams).

This comes back to Zizek's observation that outbursts of violence are the result of inabilities to relate to the prevailing ideology.  A more granular observation is that one does not have a sufficient memetic inventory with which to make this interface and that one "paints oneself into memetic corners" rather like a system that exhibits a kind of hysteresis and can get into positions which it cannot get out of. A kind of memetic matrix/graph with nodes having in-links but no out-links. That is perhaps a practical example of the ideological alienation which Zizek describes.

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